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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Cardiff ready to spoil Newcastle's promotion party

Magpies could face a difficult night

Cardiff boss Neil Warnock
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Sky Sports 1, 7.45pm Friday

Newcastle celebrated promotion back to the Premier League after winning 4-1 at home to Preston on Monday but any lingering hopes of challenging for the title could be ended by a loss to Cardiff in the Welsh capital.

More than 4,000 away fans are going to be in the mood to party but punters must weigh up whether Newcastle's players have been overdoing the celebrations this week.

Title rivals Brighton followed up their promotion with a 2-0 defeat at Norwich last Friday and a similar story could unfold for Newcastle unless they are ready to match the intensity and aggression which Cardiff, under Neil Warnock, usually bring to the table.

Brighton had a rare off night where they weren't at their best at Norwich but Newcastle have underperformed for most of April.

Before the victory over Preston they had won just two of their five previous fixtures, scraping victories at home to strugglers Burton (1-0) and Wigan (2-1).

And they were far from convincing for the opening hour of their success over injury-hit Preston.

They held a 2-1 lead at the break and the floodgates eventually opened after Preston midfielder Paul Gallagher handled on the goalline, resulting in his dismissal and a penalty for Newcastle which was gleefully swept home by Matt Ritchie.

Newcastle played with a swagger for the rest of the game but are unlikely to be allowed to slip into their comfort zone against the Bluebirds, who are a notoriously awkward side to play against.

Warnock's teams have always played a direct, physical brand of football and his tactics continue to be effective in the second tier.

When appointed Cardiff manager last October Warnock inherited a demoralised team in 23rd place and at serious risk of relegation.

He soon made them competitive and has presided over 14 league wins, nine draws and ten defeats.

The experienced manager has agreed to stay on for next season and plans a summer recruitment drive with the aim of building a playoff-chasing team.

Several of the current squad could be moved on, including long-serving midfielder Peter Whittingham, who is yet to agree a new deal.

However, Warnock has the fundamentals of a strong second-tier side with good goalkeeper Allan McGregor, powerful centre-backs Sean Morrison and Bruno Manga, and an effective centre-forward in Danish striker Kenneth Zohore, who has netted ten goals in his last 15 games.

Despite being assured of safety for a few weeks, there has been no sign of a loss of focus and Cardiff look ready to give their home fans the perfect send-off by taking the biggest scalp in the division.

Cardiff draw no bet
1pt 7-4 Hills

Team news
A sickness bug disrupted the preparations for last Saturday's 0-0 draw at Wigan but a clean bill of health has been reported this week. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor and centre-forward Kenneth Zohore are among the first-choice players set to return.

Dwight Gayle (hamstring) remains sidelined and Rafa Benitez has to decide whether to freshen up the side who won 4-1 at home to Preston on Monday.

Key stat
Cardiff have lost only one of their last ten home league fixtures.

Warnock's teams have always played a direct, physical brand of football and his tactics continue to be effective in the second tier
E.W. Terms
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